British fixed line incumbent BT, which was designated by local telecoms regulator Ofcom as the Universal Service Provider (USP) for the UK (excluding Hull) in June 2019, has issued its latest report on progress against the country’s broadband universal service obligation (USO).
The company confirmed that in the first year of the scheme – the broadband USO was formally introduced in March 2020 – it saw nearly 100,000 visits to the USO section of its website, resulting in more than 18,000 enquiries from customers. While BT said it had been able to refer the bulk of these applications to existing products or already planned network builds that could meet their needs, it had 931 confirmed orders from end users up to the end of March 2021, and in response said it was now building USO connections that cover nearly 5,000 premises.
Meanwhile, among other developments during the period under review, BT noted that in March 2021 it had introduced a cost sharing option for USO consumers to help reduce the contributions required from them towards their build. Further, over the six months to 31 March 2021 BT claimed to have improved its processes, so that it now sees fewer responses beyond the 30-day target and a reduction in complaint numbers compared to the first six months of the scheme.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the UK’s broadband USO enables customers that are unable to access a ‘decent’ connection – defined by the UK government as one capable of delivering download speeds of at least 10Mbps and upload of 1Mbps – to request a USO connection. On such a request, USPs have 30 days to confirm eligibility, and to do so they must check that the consumer’s location: is a home or business; has no access to existing decent, affordable broadband; will not be covered by a public scheme in the next twelve months; and will not cost more than GBP3,400 to connect. In those instances where the cost does exceed that figure, customers have the choice to pay the excess costs of installing a USO connection or use an alternative technology, such as satellite, outside the USO scheme.